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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

Jason Rodd, clocked at 90 mph on Interstate 91 near Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, in November, allegedly tried to evade police by pulling off the highway into a farmer's field and turning off his headlights. However, apparently unable to see very well, he drove into a manure pit, immobilizing his car; he was tracked down on foot about an hour later.

Signs

Among the latest "miracles": a fiberglass statue of Jesus, which was found washed up on a sandbar on the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, in August and which drew thousands of pilgrims to the police evidence room where it was stored afterward; a green rubber balloon with a blemish supposedly in the image of the Virgin Mary, discovered in August by employees of a car dealership in Weslaco, Texas ("I got the chills," one witness said); and, in October, the allegedly spontaneous tipping over of a statue of the Virgin Mary following the final mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Boston, which was taken by some parishioners as a divine protest against the church's scheduled closing.

Fine Points of the Law

Update: In October Australia's High Court refused to let the country's tax office appeal a 2003 decision in which convicted drug dealer Francesco La Rosa was permitted to write off a loss of about $172,000 (U.S.) against his taxable income for 1994-'95. As reported here last year, a lower court found that the loss--which occurred when other criminals allegedly dug up money La Rosa had buried in his daughter's backyard and planned to use for a heroin deal--was deductible because it was directly connected with his business, dealing drugs.

In October the federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the navy filed by a Hawaii lawyer on behalf of marine mammals, claiming that naval sonar disrupted their underwater communication; the court said that unlike people, animals have no legal standing under federal environmental law and thus cannot bring suit.

Gland Master

Former chess champion Bobby Fischer, who has been living abroad since violating U.S. sanctions by playing a match in Yugoslavia in 1992, was taken into custody by Japanese immigration in July. Smarting from an August Time magazine piece that questioned his engagement to a Japanese chess official by suggesting that a 61-year-old fugitive with a history of paranoid anti-Semitic ranting "might not sound like Mr. Right" to many people, Fischer defended his desirability in an October interview with a Philippine radio station by pointing out that he wears "size 14 wide shoes. Just keep that in mind when you say I'm not a dreamboat." After describing an episode at a public bath in Japan in which two fellow customers marveled at the size of his penis, Fischer accused Japanese authorities of deliberately choosing to detain him in a facility near the site of a 1999 nuclear-plant accident because "they want to make me impotent."

Compelling Explanations

After American Express sued Antoinette Millard to recover $951,187 she charged on her ultrapremium Centurion Card, Millard filed a countersuit in November, claiming the company made false promises "to induce" her to open the account and should have known she "was acting impulsively and irrationally" when she did. The 40-year-old, a Buffalo native and former vice president at a Manhattan investment bank who infiltrated New York society by allegedly claiming to be a Saudi princess, said she was mentally incompetent when she got her AmEx card as a result of "anorexia, depression, panic attacks, [and] head tumors."

According to a transcript obtained by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, John Horace--convicted in 1997 of raping a near-comatose resident of the nursing home where he worked, resulting in her pregnancy--was turned down by a New York parole board in September despite the new defense he offered. Horace, 60, said he had read in a medical book that becoming pregnant can bring a woman out of a coma and therefore decided to help his victim by artificially inseminating her.

Creme de la Weird

In a suit filed in Albany, New York, in June, Mark Hogarth, 45, argued that child pornography laws unconstitutionally prevent him from legally possessing 269 photos of himself, aged 11 to 15, engaged in sexual activity both alone and with other people who "enthusiastically consented to this sexual activity and to [its] photographing." According to Hogarth's suit, his father (who, he said, approved of but was not involved in the shoots) arranged years ago to have the pictures stored in another country where they aren't illegal, but Hogarth said he resents having to "travel to a foreign nation to view these personal photos."

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in November on two New Hampshire mothers who'd recently been arrested for assaulting their children with knives. That month Nicole Mancini, 29, was arrested after she allegedly walked into Saint Mary's Church in Rochester, New Hampshire, with her three young children and her boyfriend and told a staff member, "I need to place my child on the altar before three o'clock." When informed she couldn't do that, she reportedly became confrontational, then turned to her boyfriend and said, "Let's go make the sacrifice."

Readers' Choice

In Kent, Washington, in November, a 24-year-old man heated his lava lamp on a stove; he was killed when the lamp exploded, propelling a shard of glass into his heart. And on Thanksgiving in Worcester, Massachusetts, Frank Palacios, also 24, apparently chafed at being criticized for picking at the turkey with his fingers and allegedly stabbed his cousin and uncle with carving knives, sending both to the hospital.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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